Higher Ed for Human Development?

Current literature has vastly recognized that the lack of accessibility to education exclude population and promote the deterioration of their human capabilities. However, one may wonder if current educational trends, specially in the higher education context, are actually emphasizing the elements that contribute to student’s empowerment and therefore human development.

Traditionally, development is a concept that has been measured in terms of the metric of income or access to material goods as with the economic growth approach (Fraser & Naples, 2004; Sen, 1985). Human development, however, “is a process of expanding the real freedom of persons to lead the kind of lives they value and have reason to value” (Keleher, 2007; Sen, 1997). The capabilities approach assess human development as an alternative to the traditional economic growth-centered development theory (Nussbaum, 2011). It also recognizes that individuals are free to employ their own agency as they chose to achieve certain functionings/capabilities (Keleher, 2007) Sen/Nussbaum describe, such as education, employment, among others.

It follows from this understanding that human development is assessed within the capabilities approach in terms of what capabilities a person is free to achieve (Keleher, 2007). I operationalize capability as the several alternate functionings combinations a person is free to achieve to live a valued lifestyle (Keleher, 2014). With this context, it is important to recognize if current educational systems are actually promoting the expansion of capabilities and freedom of their students. Is it within our educational curriculums that we learn about the injustices in the world, and the available tools to overcome them? If it is not the case, one may question current education to human development.

3 Replies to “Higher Ed for Human Development?”

  1. I really like that you mention an alternative meaning to development. Often times, we think of it only in economic or industrial terms. But human development involves so many other factors, including freedom and values. Also, your question about where we learn about injustices in the world is really important. If not in school, then where?

  2. I agree that we need to educate people in a way that exposes the injustices in the world as well as gives people tools to address them. I believe that exposure is such an important factor in this however. Students can learn about different people and places and the injustices that they face, but I don’t think that it really makes the same impression as actually experiencing the situations first hand. I do understand that travel can be expensive, but I think that these types of exercises can often happen very close to the places that people live. You certainly do not need to travel outside the United States to learn first hand about injustice and develop tools to address it.

  3. Thanks for the post. I really enjoyed the focus on humans rather than in the technologies. As I mentioned in another post: Educators play an important role in the higher education systems, they are the ones who form professionals to go contribute to the world, but also they raise the new and future mass of professors. In other words, professors have an important role in how the world is shaped through the actions/contributors of those they have “educated”. However, in the current, and for multiple reasons, the relationship between higher education and the ideal role of professors is affecting the relationship between professor-student, which ultimately affects the citizens we sent to the world.
    I am going to focus on the relationships with PhD students in the engineering fields of higher education. Nowadays, is it worth to ask the question why is the ratio of international vs National students increasing? Are PhD students the one with more opportunities in the market?

    First, to put graduate students in context, PhD students are not regular students, they are professionals that have chosen to continue study for many more years in stead of being part of the work-force, probably in higher positions and good salaries. However, are they being treated this way? Studies show that PhD students suffer from this and this.

    In that context, I believe schools need to do this, control for fairness, provide development resources, etc. But the most immediate and direct connection between students and the university is the perforadora and advisors. So I advocate for them Toni corporate in the recurrent teaching practices new views. For example, use empathy.

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